An Introduction to Open Science
A widely cited definition of open science (an interchangeable term with 'open research’ and ‘open scholarship’) is an approach to the scientific process based on open cooperative work, tools and diffusing knowledge.
Open science aims to open up access to all parts of the research process (e.g. methods, results, publications, data, software, materials, tools and peer reviews) across academic subject areas to increase collaboration, disseminate knowledge, improve transparency and reproducibility of research, and support research integrity.
When researchers share knowledge and data as early as possible in the research process, it helps diffuse the latest knowledge. With open science, the general public is able to make significant contributions and be recognised as valid European science knowledge producers, enabling Citizen Science. When partners from across academia, industry, public authorities, and citizen groups are invited to participate in the research and innovation process, creativity and trust in science increases.
Open science is a key element in the new framework programme on Research and Innovation of the European Commission. In fact, it is evaluated under the ‘excellence’ criterion of proposals. This new programme, Horizon Europe, goes beyond open access by embracing open science. The European Commission believe open science intensifies research, enhances collaborative and interdisciplinary research, and increases research efficiency and research excellence. These open data sharing practices, coupled with FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable) data should become the default for the results of EU-funded scientific research.
Open Research Europe
To help beneficiaries to meet this open science requirement, the European Commission launched Open Research Europe, an Open Access publishing platform which is dedicated to providing all Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe beneficiaries and their collaborators with an easy, high quality venue to publish their research at no cost to themselves.
The platform champions open science and publishes articles immediately, followed by transparent, invited and open peer review with the inclusion of all supporting data and materials. The names of the reviewers are open, as well as their reviews, which are also citable. The European Commission strongly supports the view that publications should be judged on their intrinsic value and so a wide range of article-level metrics are available to provide indications of use and reuse, and to support responsible research and researcher assessment and evaluation.
How does Open Science benefit me as a researcher?
Greater transparency in the research process improves research integrity, inspires a more collective research culture and provides a greater confidence and trust in published findings.
Higher citation rates, views, downloads and media attention has been found for articles which are openly available. By also publishing your data and materials, you increase the opportunity of further citable outputs for every project you work on.
Greater opportunities for collaboration are enabled when publications and associated data and materials are more widely available.
Greater efficiencies (and value for money) as research does not need to be repeated. Software code, data and materials can be shared and reused enabling others to build upon new ideas right away. Research also becomes more reproducible.
Increased visibility, impact and availability of research that isn’t hidden behind a paywall has the potential to raise researchers’ profiles both within and outside their subject area.
Compliance with funder and institution policies that are increasingly supporting open science practices.
Separating the Open Science facts from fiction
There are misconceptions about open science and it can be difficult to distinguish the facts from the fiction. We’ve compiled answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions on this topic to help provide an accurate picture of open science, its place in academia and how it benefits researchers.
Fiction: It’s not possible to share certain types of data
Facts: True, there are cases where it is not possible to share data for many reasons such as confidentiality and security obligations or an obligation to protect personal data. However, it is important for you and those who will get the chance to re-use your results that data is made FAIR: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. A data availability statement enables a reader to understand where the data associated with an article is available, and under what conditions the data can be accessed.
If your data is sensitive for ethical, data protection or confidentiality reasons, it may still be possible to share it following appropriate anonymization and/or using controlled or delayed access. In the case of data that really cannot or should not be shared, you can share your metadata instead. This description of your data is known as a ‘metadata record’ and improves the discoverability of your work, whilst protecting any sensitive information. It is imperative to think carefully about the expected results of a grant early on to ensure appropriate data sharing is defined from the onset of a research project and form part of the grant agreement, so if there is a valid reason for the data to kept closed, this has been agreed and documented clearly.
Open Peer Review
Fiction: It will harm my reputation if my work is critiqued/ I don’t want to openly critique someone more senior
Facts: There are tangible benefits to open peer review, both to you as a researcher and to you as a peer-reviewer. As a researcher, having your work reviewed openly means creating a more collaborative and constructive approach which should ultimately improve your publication. It can also save you time since you will be in direct dialogue with your reviewer/s.
As a reviewer, the same is also true – an open and honest dialogue is usually more constructive. Furthermore, the benefits can be significant since peer review reports are independently citable, maximizing your visibility and making your work more discoverable.
In both cases, more than harming your reputation, open peer review gives you a chance to enhancing it.
Fiction: Open science publication platforms only publish low quality research
Facts: Simply put, this is not the case. The presence of an editorial board, clear publishing policies and a robust peer review process are all indicators of a well-founded open publishing option. In addition, an increasing number of funding agencies, institutions and organizations are keen to support a broad view of a researcher’s by signing up to DORA.
The intrinsic value of what is published, shared and re-used is what is important, as opposed to the venue, journal or platform where an article is published. There are things to look out for to make sure you choose the right open access publishing option, but the open access/open science movement is becoming more widely accepted and more and more funders are mandating that research outputs are published open access.
If you’re a Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe grant holder you are eligible to publish your research on Open Research Europe, with your APC covered by the European Commission.